Four Stamford police officers relieved of duty in potential pay scandal
STAMFORD — Four city police officers have been relieved of duty pending an investigation into their conduct, said police Chief Jon Fontneau, less than a month before his retirement is set to begin.
Fontneau, who said he would not divulge their names until the investigation is complete, and others in the department have conferred with the Stamford State’s Attorney’s office about the investigation, indicating the possibility of criminal charges being filed.
Fontneau would not discuss the allegations against the officers or confirm whether a sergeant is among those under suspicion. Fontneau, however, did say he was “very disappointed” in the officers and this was not the way he wanted to end his 38-year career in early May.
While relieved of duty, the officers are still being paid, as per state law.
Sources within the Police Department said the allegations against the officers involve extra duty jobs, such as when officers direct traffic around construction and utility projects.
Sources said the accused at one time worked in the Central Hiring Office, which parcels out extra duty jobs to city officers on top of their regular responsibilities.
According to the Police Department’s website, officers are paid at a rate of $68 per hour for extra duty work, and the city also receives an additional 16 percent administrative fee. City ordinance requires that police officers be hired for street construction jobs.
According to the police contract, if a utility company, for example, cancels a job after 10 p.m. the night before, the officers who have signed up to work that job receive four hours pay anyway because of the late cancellation.
The accused allegedly manipulated the extra-duty system to get themselves paid for late-canceled jobs.
The total of misspent funds could range between $100,000 to $200,000, sources say.
Stamford State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo declined comment on the matter. Stamford police union President Sgt. Kris Engstrand also declined comment because the investigation is still ongoing.
During Fiscal Year 2017-18, the extra duty program brought in $10 million, the vast majority of which went to the officers who worked the jobs. After expenses related to running the program, the result was a $100,000 addition to the city coffers, city records show.
The last time a Stamford police officer was arrested was at the end of 2015. Former officer Donald Chen requested two weeks off with pay to report for training with his U.S. Army Reserve unit.
But when Chen’s supervisors discovered that the 20-month officer was really on vacation with his girlfriend in Hawaii, he quit the job and was charged with larceny. Chen was granted a diversionary program and has made restitution.